Cultural Schema

“Do you have anti-freeze?” I asked, as I walked into the auto parts store ten minutes after closing. The door was still unlocked, and they graciously let me come into the shop, yet they looked blankly at me.

“Anti-freeze?” I asked again.

Puzzled looks around the room.

“Ahh…Coolant! I need coolant. My car is overheating,” I said, finally realizing people living in this desert have never had a need for anti-freeze.

The context in which you live shapes the way you understand things.

This can be true of the way we understand people too. I am learning to listen and ask questions. I don’t want to misunderstand what people do and say because I have not paid attention to how my understanding is different. My experiences have shaped my understanding in certain ways that others may never have experienced.

Coolant, not anti-freeze.

Petrol, not gasoline.

Trousers, not pants (means undies).

Operating theater, not operating room.

Use your right hand only to eat or pass something on to someone else. The left hand is considered unclean.

Context and culture shape the meaning of actions and words.

I have a lot to learn.

Keith Adding "Coolant"

Neighbors

Yesterday after church I was approached by two women. One asked for prayer for her friend, who was just new to our church. I asked them where they were from, just out of curiosity.  Or maybe it was just to make small talk before I asked what they needed prayer for.

“Cuba,” she replied.  She then went on to explain about her friend’s need for her employer to renew her work visa. They want to send her back to Cuba, but she wants to keep working here. She was telling me in English because her friend wasn’t able to. It then dawned on me that Spanish was their native language. That accent didn’t come from Kerala or Karnataka, from Malawi or Martinique, from Bangladesh or Botswana. It came from someone who spoke Spanish.

As I prayed, I wept. I was standing hand-in-hand with someone from the other side of the world, my side of the world. She felt not only like a sister in Christ, but also a geographical neighbor. Cuba is just a stone’s throw from Florida (actually 90 miles). Perhaps I also wept because, even though I grew up in Los Angeles county, I never learned Spanish enough to converse with her. I felt sad I couldn’t pray for her in Spanish.

Another thing. I believe in all my years, I had never before met a person who was still from Cuba. I’ve only met Cuban Americans, people born in America or those who left communist Cuba and made a new life in the US. In my lifetime, those Cuban Americans have not been welcome in their native country. (Now, thank God, after the recent changes perhaps they can now go between the US and Cuba, if they so desire.)

After this experience, I was struck again with the awesomeness of this place. I’m humbled that I can be here, praying and worshiping freely with my sisters.

This place where Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and more live together, worshiping legally and without persecution. This place where dozens and dozens of nationalities come together and live in peace.

God bless Bahrain.

Be at peace with your neighbors.

Posted in ELC

A Tribute to My Fathers

“More meat, please,” my three-year-old self said, holding out the plate to my father.

He grabbed a serving spoon full of thick mashed potatoes, and proceeded to plop them onto my waiting plate.

First, more starch. He didn’t want any child of his to look skinny. He didn’t want anyone to think he wasn’t able to provide for his bursting-at-the-seams family. Seven children in this small house. “Why do they have so many kids?” the neighbors might wonder. “They can’t even feed them.”

But this time, I was faster. I grabbed my plate out from under the falling, unwanted potato blob. The spoonful landed, splatting on the table. “More meat I said!”

My siblings sat quietly. No one dared laugh. They looked at me. They looked at him. What will he do? they wondered. A slight upturn of his mouth revealed there would be no explosion this time. Relief around the table.

That story is part of the family lore around our father. Of course, I don’t really remember the incident. In fact, I don’t remember much about him at all. My older siblings remember him. They have stories, many of them painful, of life with Dad.

One thing I can say about my dad is he was a good provider. He provided not only unwanted potatoes, but the money to be able to afford meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, clothing, and a roof over our heads–even if it was a tight fit. In the midst of chronic alcoholism, he managed to continue to work and earn money for his large family.

Alcohol and tobacco abuse killed him at age 43, but thanks to Social Security and generous death benefits from my dad’s work at the power company in Los Angeles, my mom was able to carry on. We were able to survive and maybe even thrive after he was gone. Today, I’m thankful that he was able to continue working, in spite of his illness.

God in his holy dwelling is a father to the fatherless and a champion of the widows. Psalm 68:5

This verse holds a lot of meaning for me. I was seven when my earthly dad died. I am comforted with this promise that God was and continues to be a father to me.

Every person doesn’t have a father, for a variety of reasons, and some people who do have fathers have bad ones. God is a good father.

Today in church, the Church School children gave a tribute to dads with a skit, a video of wishes about their fathers, and a prayer.

I was invited to pray for fathers at this service, so I chose this prayer by Charles R. Swindoll, with a few minor revisions. It gave me peace when I prayed it, and I hope it does for you too.

Lord, you are good to give us fathers. Far too often it’s a difficult role and thankless job, so we pray that today you will encourage all the men in that place. Guard their hearts. Strengthen their resolve. Help them embrace the joy that comes with the rearing of their children.

We thank you for our own fathers. For those of us who had supportive, loving and faithful fathers, we give you great thanks. There is nothing like a good father–one who leads his family with love and grace–presenting a life of self-sacrificial love consistently to his children.

Father, we also pray today for those who haven’t a father nearby or don’t have one like they would have wanted. We pray for those who have a father who taints their image of You. We pray you will make them trusting people and see that you are the Father of the fatherless. You’re able to take their deepest hurts and heal them. We pray you would use your word and your people to relieve some of their pain. For those who have not yet bowed their knee to the Savior, bring them to that place right now. May we give honor to you, God, for being our father and for giving us fathers. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

This Father’s Day I’m thankful for the physical provision that my dad was able to provide.

I’m even more thankful, that in the midst of brokenness, my father in heaven provides love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

Mom and Dad circa 1964

Mom and Dad circa 1964

Manna – Gather Yours Today

 

The MOMs group at the ELC is studying Beth Moore‘s book called A Woman’s Heart. We had a great session this evening complete with food for our stomachs and food for our souls.

The manna that the people of God had in the wilderness was called the “bread of heaven.” Each day the people gathered food for that day. They didn’t store it up, but enjoyed their daily bread.

Later, Jesus tells us the “true bread of heaven” comes from the Father and gives life to the world. He calls himself the bread of life (John 6:31-35). He is also the Word of God (John 1:1-2).

We have a chance to enjoy this true bread of heaven, this very Word of God, every single day.

It’s all about a relationship with Jesus, every single day.

Beth Moore's DVD series "A  Woman's Heart"

A Quick Story on Technology and Learning Arabic

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So, I have this nifty new smart phone, my first one ever. A friend recently told me about an app to learn how to read and write the Arabic alphabet (TenguGo Arabic), so I added it to my phone and started taking lessons.

I took notes on a Post-it to keep straight all the unfamiliar features of the language (and to help me on the quizzes). Then, I kept the sticky note stuck on the front of my phone for over a day, so I could keep the info handy.

I woke up in the morning and laughed about my low tech notes. I realized I had an app for that, so I moved the info from my sticky note to Keep.

Keep Note

Ah, yes, isn’t that slick?

But, then I turned my Post-it note over and realized I had another problem.

Arabic Notes

Oops! I don’t know how to write Arabic letters on a Keep note. YET!

 

Creation and Rest or Rest and Creation?

This is my last week before I go back to school. During the past month, I’ve had an amazing time of rest. It’s been wonderful to have time to go to AMH’s chapel on some mornings, (when I was up early enough to get there). This week I’ve been to two of the 7:30 a.m. meetings, and today I even led chapel–kind of a recap of what I’ve been learning this week.

On Sunday Dr. G shared about Mary and Martha, and how Mary had made the better choice. Though he also shared, “The most difficult thing we have to do is live a spiritual life in a physical body,” which I’ve been thinking about as I try to get up earlier this week to spend time sitting at the feet of Jesus. Yesterday Elizabeth read Psalm 8—how God created us just a little lower than the angels, and also how we need to look from God’s bigger perspective. Keith recently shared an insight from Watchman Nee’s book Sit, Walk, Stand. I’ve also been reading Job this week, so all these things started coming together.

I used scripture from Job 38. This comes after Job has gone through tremendous suffering, and he and his three friends have had a lengthy discussion about it. God finally intervenes and asks him some serious questions about where Job was during creation.

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
2 “Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb?…

It goes on for most of the next four chapters. He does pause twice to hear from Job. These are some of the stumbling responses Job makes:

Job's Response

Job knew his place. He admited that he didn’t know anything about how the world was created. Job wasn’t there. Only God was there. God didn’t need Job’s help to create.

The following picture shows the things God created on each of the days of creation.

creation

Yes, notice people were created last, after everything else! In Sit, Walk, Stand, Watchman Nee explains that God’s plan for people is for them to sit and rest in what God has done for them. This was the plan from the very beginning.

What does it really mean to sit down? When we walk or stand we bear on our legs all the weight of our own body, but when we sit down our entire weight, no matter how heavy we are, rests upon the chair or couch on which we sit. We grow weary when we walk or stand, but we feel rested when we have sat down for a while.

To sit down is simply to rest our whole weight – our load, ourselves, our future, everything – upon the Lord. We let Him bear the responsibility and cease to carry it ourselves.

In the creation God worked from the first to the sixth day and rested on the seventh. We may truthfully say that for those first six days He was very busy. Then, the task He had set Himself completed, He ceased to work. The seventh day became the Sabbath of God; it was God’s rest.

But what of Adam? Where did he stand in relation to that rest of God? Adam, we are told, was created on the sixth day. Clearly, then, he had no part in those first six days of work, for he came into being only at their end. God’s seventh day was, in fact, Adam’s first. Whereas God worked six days and then enjoyed His Sabbath rest, Adam began his life with the Sabbath; for God works before He rests, while man must first enter into God’s rest, and then alone can he work. Moreover it was because God’s work of creation was truly complete that Adam’s life could begin with rest. And here is the Gospel: that God has gone one stage further and has completed also the work of salvation, and that we need do nothing whatever to merit it, but can enter by faith directly into the values of His finished work.

Many people in scripture, recognized God’s work and our place in it, like the Psalmist here.

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So, it’s important for us to start with REST. Here are some things to remember, some of which were shared at chapel this morning:

  1. Like Adam, Job, and others before us, we need to remember it is the Lord who created everything. He worked first, so we can rest.
  2. See yourself seated with Christ in the heavenly places. (Read Eph. 2:6.)
  3. Trust that nothing will happen without the knowledge and working it for good of your faithful Savior. (Read Romans 8:28)
  4. “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matt. 11:29
  5. Rest Less – When we become restless, we need to REST, so we become LESS. When God becomes more, we become less and able to rest. (Dr. G)
  6. Favorite verse to meditate on: “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 (Elizabeth)

Because we rest in God, we can become creators. We need creativity and innovation in our broken world.

A friend came to my house a few weeks ago and helped me create chicken curry with foods I already had in my house and spices from my cupboard, some of which I had not dared to try before she came over. She empowered me to be creative with the food, and as a result of her sharing, I tried this the following week:

Tomatoes, Okra, and Ginger

I cooked these fresh ingredients. Yes, that’s OKRA–the first time I had ever bought it.

Finished Dish

It was delicious, and no slime!

Today, I have more appreciation for all the beautiful fruits, vegetables, and herbs available in this world, things I had never seen in our small Iowa town, but this delicious produce is available here in Bahrain. I’ve become more creative and willing to give these foods a try, thanks to my friend’s creative encouragement and help!

Another example is the amazing work of the Circle project, now called Circles Without Borders, by Dr. Mary and others. (Last week, Keith wrote about it here.)  What a wonderful way to use our creativity and serve at the same time. Here’s something new being created for Circles Without Borders:

Circles

You’ll have to wait to see what this will become!

Yes, we can take charge of things that need creative solutions. In fact, God commanded us in the garden to care for creation. Psalm 8:6 says, “You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority.” We can and must come up with creative solutions for everyday problems and ways to make the world a better place. We have a contribution to make, but don’t forget to start with REST.

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Here are my slides for you to look through. Feel free to use any slides you like! (The pictures were either taken by me or found on Morguefile.com and edited, so I have the license to share them.)

Posted in AMH

Circles Without Borders

The mission of the American Mission Hospital is: “We are here to serve the people in Bahrain in the Spirit of Christ who went about doing good to all who came to him.” Compassion is one of the ways the Spirit of Christ is shown to those who come for medical care.

One of the ways compassion is shared is through the Chaplain’s Fund that provides assistance to those who cannot afford medical care. It is a great joy to see the relief on a patient’s face when they discover there is help available.

Dr. Mary, one of our anesthesiologists, had a vision for how to raise funds for the Chaplain’s Fund. She is a craft project lover and she saw a woman wearing a pair of earrings made from discarded IV bottle pull rings. She asked how they were made. Earlier this year she gathered volunteers from the staff at AMH to begin to make the earrings.

Dr. Mary is a firm believer in recycling, innovation, and using the talents of people. All these values were incorporated into what is now called, “Circles without Borders.”

The first step in making the earrings is to gather ring-pull tabs from IV bottles.

Pulling the tab

Then trim the extra plastic off the ring so they are ready for the next step.

Pull tabs with rings

Next, nylon thread is crocheted around the plastic rings.

Circles sewing

Almost finished…

Almost finished

The nylon strings are trimmed off and melted to prevent unraveling, and then earring wires are attached.

Finally, you have a beautiful earring!

Finished Earing

Here’s Dr. Mary with the finished products.

Dr. Mary with a box full of completed earrings

The earrings are sold at AMH events and to staff at the hospital. Chaplain Keith has also distributed them at churches in the United States. Many people have the opportunity to share in the Spirit of Christ who reaches out to people with compassion and healing. This is a project “without borders.”

Posted in AMH

Hope in God

Light from setting sun colored clouds in yellow. Golden clouds background.

This week I’ve had to preach to myself, like the Psalmist did in Psalm 42. He complained about being down-in-the-dumps, and then he answered himself, all in the same verse, with hope-in-God talk.
Psalm 42-5

I’ve been discouraged because I’ve been busy with so many things, none of which seemed to matter. I went to the Bible and searched for HOPE.

First a reminder, hope in God is not just wishful thinking, making a wish on birthday candles or the first star you see at night. It’s not the kind of hope someone might have when he crosses his fingers.

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It’s so much more than that. It is the kind of hope that William Carey had. “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God,” he said.

It doesn’t matter that I am not doing great things right now. Perhaps, I have lacked hope that God is doing great things around me, perhaps even through me and in spite of me.

William Carey noticed God’s great achievements. He dared to attempt great things. God is still doing great things through William Carey who, among other things, translated the Bible into several different languages, Bibles which are being read all over the world two centuries later.

Abstract lights, sun and festive backgrounds for your design

I found so many other encouraging verses about hope in the Bible. Here are a couple favorites:

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Image of pages folded into a heart shape

Am I expecting great things from God in my ministries?

(Yes, but, Lord, help my unbelief!)

How about you?

Posted in ELC

A Full Weekend

A glimpse into last weekend…

Maria and Katie

Most importantly, our youngest daughter, Katie, graduated from Northwestern College. We didn’t get to be there, but Maria flew in from Seattle to be with her sister and keep us updated with photos and video clips during the ceremony. Our sweet, beautiful daughters.

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Yes, we missed sharing the joy and the laughter with our wonderful graduate. What a peach!

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We stayed in Bahrain and stayed busy.  In Mother’s Day worship, on Friday and Sunday, Keith and I were in a skit with our “three teenage children” who forgot it was Mother’s Day and didn’t appreciate at the beginning of the skit all their “mom” did for them.

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Great worship services with a beautiful praise dance!

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Everyone was asked to wear pink to church.

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On Friday evening, we went to a 25th anniversary celebration and renewal of wedding vows. It was a beautiful occasion. I wore my first sari.

Be Not Afraid

On Saturday morning, I led devotions at AMH. Keith does it several times a week, but it was only my second time so I was a little nervous. Appropriately, my topic was FEAR, or more accurately, FEAR NOT.

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On Saturday night, the MOMs group came over and we baked cookies and cupcakes. It was lots of fun and much activity. Katie’s graduation was happening toward the end of our time together. We tried to watch it online, but I guess I was on the wrong Internet connection so the live feed didn’t work.

Later, Keith and I watched the graduation ceremony in quiet. It was lovely and we took it all in. The busyness of the weekend probably helped us keep our minds off the fact that we couldn’t be in Orange City for Katie’s graduation.

When I led devotions Saturday morning, I shared “Be Not Afraid,” by Jesuit priest Bob Dufford. I was reminded of this beautiful song that we had sung during school mass last spring. It was just at the time we were first hearing God’s call to move to Bahrain. It was a powerful song for me then, and it is now.

You shall cross the barren desert
But you shall not die of thirst
You shall wander far in safety
Though you do not know the way.

You shall speak your words in foreign lands
And all will understand
You shall see the face of God and live.

Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come follow Me
And I WILL give you rest.

If you pass through raging waters
In the sea, you shall not drown
If you walk amidst the burning flames
You shall not be harmed.

If you stand before the pow’r of hell
And death is at your side
Know that I am with you, through it all.

Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come follow Me
And I will give you rest.

Blessed are your poor
For the Kingdom shall be theirs
Blest are you that weep and mourn
for one day you shall laugh.

And if wicked men insult and hate you
All because of Me
Blessed, blessed are you!

Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come follow Me
and I WILL GIVE you rest…

You can listen to John Michael Talbot sing it here. Absolutely beautiful!

Thanks to Liz for the pictures of graduation and to Vinolia for the picture of our skit in church.

Inadequacy and Other Thoughts

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Recently I was reading Luke 9 and I noticed a distinct contrast between what the disciples said and did in the first half of the chapter and in the second. In the beginning of Luke 9:

  • The twelve disciples were sent out by Jesus, successfully “bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.”
  • They witnessed the feeding of the five thousand.
  • Peter declared Jesus was the Messiah of God.
  • Several witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain.

But, interestingly, after all that, the Luke 9 account takes a turn. Here is Luke 9:37-50:

37 The next day, after they had come down the mountain, a large crowd met Jesus. 38 A man in the crowd called out to him, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, my only child. 39 An evil spirit keeps seizing him, making him scream. It throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It batters him and hardly ever leaves him alone. 40 I begged your disciples to cast out the spirit, but they couldn’t do it.” 41 Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you and put up with you?” Then he said to the man, “Bring your son here.” 42 As the boy came forward, the demon knocked him to the ground and threw him into a violent convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the evil[h] spirit and healed the boy. Then he gave him back to his father. 43 Awe gripped the people as they saw this majestic display of God’s power.

While everyone was marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, 44 “Listen to me and remember what I say. The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies.”45 But they didn’t know what he meant. Its significance was hidden from them, so they couldn’t understand it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.

46 Then his disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest. 47 But Jesus knew their thoughts, so he brought a little child to his side. 48 Then he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.” 49 John said to Jesus, “Master, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he isn’t in our group.” 50 But Jesus said, “Don’t stop him! Anyone who is not against you is for you.”

Mr. Christopher spoke at the English Language Congregation (ELC) recently and said when God calls you, his will will take you into situations unexpected, inadequate, and incomprehensible.

Keith and I looked at each other often during the sermon.

Yes, God’s will has put us in such situations. Unexpected, definitely. We were not looking to move or change our situation. Then God asked us to move across the world to Bahrain. Unexpected? Yes.

When Mr. Christopher got to inadequate, it really resonated. In my life I tend to be a proud person who likes to be adequate and effective. God has shown me, like the disciples, that there are many things that I cannot do except through his power at work in me.

First, look at the disciples in just this one short passage. Were they inadequate for what God was requiring of them? Definitely! In just this passage alone:

  • they couldn’t do it
  • they didn’t know
  • they couldn’t understand
  • they were afraid to ask
  • they strived to be put on a pedestal as the “greatest”
  • they disallowed other disciples’ good work

The disciples were inadequate, rough hewn, unexpected choices. Jesus called them to follow him, though. He’s done the same to inadequate me.

  • I had never been out of North America when I was called to leave everything and move to Bahrain.
  • I knew nothing about the Arab culture or living in the Middle East.
  • I, so far, have never learned a second language.
  • I am humbled at being asked to help lead church school at the ELC.
  • I am inexperienced and too old to teach kindergarten, yet God called me to that position.
  • My faith seems like toddler faith compared to so many of the saints I’ve met here.

I am inadequate for the tasks set before me, but so were the disciples.

And finally, God’s will puts us in situations that are incomprehensible. Especially in the questioning times, I’m reminded of Job when God asked him: “Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this.” (Job 38:18)

No, God, I haven’t. I can’t really tell you anything. I’ll be quiet now. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7)

I found it interesting that Mr. Christopher said that God’s will WILL (not may or might) take you into situations that are unexpected, that you are inadequate for, and that you humanly can not comprehend.

What impossibility is God calling us to be and do today?

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